Book 6 of the Innkeeper Chronicles pushes its mix of fantasy and sci-fi humor to the edge of the ridiculous with this galactic version of "The Bachelor". The Spouse candidates are a fantastically diverse group of aliens and according to rumor at least one of them wants to assassinate the Sovereign of the Dominion instead of marrying him. But behind the "show" there is a surprising amount of substance. The metaphorical spotlights are on several minor characters from previous books and at long last we learn Caldenia's backstory.
If The Princess Bride were written by Hoid, also known as Wit, it would be something like Tress and the Emerald Sea. The tale begins as many YA fairytales do with Tress setting off to rescue the boy she loves from an evil sorceress. However, since Hoid is our narrator, it loses the feel of a YA book with the first detailed description of the gruesome way people die if they happen to breathe in a spore from the Verdant Sea. Since the Sea is made up of spores instead of water, it's a fairly common fate for those travelling across it. At least the Verdant is the least dangerous of the seas that she must cross to find her love while escaping smugglers, surviving on a pirate ship, and negotiating with a dragon. It's a good thing she makes some friends along the way because all of that is easy compared to facing down an immortal sorceress.
The invading forces have finally arrived on the shores of the kingdom of Belleger, and yet the nature of this enemy remains mostly unknown. Two books of build up leave us knowing only one thing about this army, and that is their ultimate destination: the Last Repository. The enemy plans to destroy the final storehouse of all books and knowledge and unfortunately for King Bifalt, Belleger is on the way. This means he must fight a war that shouldn't really involve him. He hates sorcery and having to expend the lives of his people to protect the sorcerers of the Repository galls him. To make matters even worse, Queen Estie has travelled to the Repository in order to unlock her own gift for sorcery, which means that she too is lost to him. At least now that the invaders are here, Bifalt will finally be able to see who they are and what he is up against. To his surprise, what he learns is that the enemy is not who he thought it would be and many of them have actually been embedded in Belleger all along...
The Mistborn series started way back in 2006 and felt rather complete at the time. It was unique for many reasons, but one of the things that stood out was the detailed magic system that used various metals to generate amazing powers. Allomancers are able to metabolize metals and do amazing things with them, leveraging different metals in various ways. Most people gifted in this way burn only a single metal, but very rarely someone is able to burn them all, and such a person is called Mistborn. Little did I know at the time, but author Brandon Sanderson had a plan to keep the series going in a rather unique way. He wanted to take this magic based society and move it forward through time to explore how industrial and technological advancement would mix with magic. The Alloy of Law kicks off the 2nd Era and introduces two very entertaining main characters in Wax & Wayne, taking place a full 300 years after the original. This series combines a Wild West vibe with the Allomancy of the original series, adds in even more magic systems, and then expands to explore the Cosmere in a detailed way. Does it all add up to something worth your time or does Sanderson take it all a bit too far?
Originally started all the way back in 1983, the Vlad Taltos series follows a human assassin of the same name living on the planet Dragaera. The Dragaerans are a race of beings that were created when humans were cross-bred with a few of the local animals. The characteristics of these animals therefore became a genetic component of the members of each Great House, influencing their physical features and personality traits. The lone exception being the lowest of the Houses, the House of Jhereg, which is more of an organization formed by outcasts of the other Houses. House Jhereg is looked down upon by almost everyone and its very existence is controversial. Despite having no actual genetic basis for it, it too is named for a local creature, the Jhereg - which is a tiny, dragon-like animal. The House of Jhereg is quite a bit shadier than the other Houses and allows many frowned upon practices, including selling titles within the House for a price. That's why Vlad's father was able to buy his way in as a human, thus making Vlad a rare Easterner in a Great House. This puts Vlad in quite a unique position that he uses to his advantage in his role as an assassin for hire.
It's time for the next generation of characters to take center stage in The Band series, which gives this second book of the series a very different vibe from the first one. The all-male members of the band Saga are now retired and the story shifts to focus on Fable, a young band just entering their prime and led by the infamous Bloody Rose. Fable is a far more diverse group of adventurers than Saga was and they are also not prone to killing off their bard in every encounter. So it should probably not be a surprise that the main PoV character is actually Fable's new bard, Tam, who leaps at the opportunity to join the band to get a little adventure in her life. Tam is full of excitement at the prospect of telling the story of Bloody Rose, who is a living legend, but she quickly realizes that the real Rose is not the one the other bards sing about. Rose is fighting her own inner demons and is willing to risk everything, and everyone in the band, for glory, so this time around it might not be just the bard that dies.
"Clay had the bright idea to block his attacker's next strike, shortly after the next strike." That's how battles typically go for Clay "Slowhand" Cooper, so nicknamed because he was never fast enough to land the first blow in a fight. Clay Cooper is the main PoV character and a member of the retired band of mercenaries, Saga. In a world where bands of adventurers are the equivalent of modern day rock stars, Saga was the OG band of mercs and the best of the best, before the whole industry became a side show. None of that matters though, since Clay is married now and all he cares about is his wife and daughter. So when Saga's old front man, Gabe, comes knocking on his door and explains why the band needs to get back together, Clay flatly refuses him and sends him away. Sure Gabe's daughter's life was in danger, but Clay has a daughter of his own, so what kind of father would he be if he just up and left?
Elric of Melniboné, along with the sword Stormbringer, is the most influential of Michael Moorcock's Eternal Champions. The first Elric story, The Dreaming City, was published in 1961 and created the trope of the fantasy anti-hero with a burdened soul. These tales of his adventures as he wanders the world in a futile quest for spiritual peace have influenced countless works in the sci-fi and fantasy genres. That description fits superheroes like The Hulk, and while I'm not sure Elric influenced the comics, there is a definite resemblance in the television series of the 1980's. The multiverse concept pioneered here is seen in the works of authors like Brandon Sanderson and the place that brings spiritual and mental peace, Tanelorn in this multiverse, is echoed in Guy Gavriel Kay's references to Fionavar. The conflict between Lords of Chaos and Order was the basis for Louise Cooper's The Time Master series. References to the series and Stormbringer appear throughout popular culture including music, comics, and even lines in television series such as Game of Thrones. "But are the books actually good?" My answer: It's complicated.
The last thing El Higgins saw before Orion pushed her through the gates of the Scholomance was the massive maw-mouth monster called Patience rolling towards him. With only moments until a super-volcano spell goes off and destroys the school, El doesn't understand why Orion didn't throw himself through the gate as well. After all, a maw-mouth is a fate worse than death, but El's determined to find Patience and destroy it to set Orion's soul free. Of course that assumes she can even find what's left of the school in the void, but in the meantime she's back at the commune in Wales with her mum. When she allowed herself to imagine a future after graduation, she dreamed of using the Golden Stone Sutras spell book she found in the Scholomance to build small enclaves to protect others. Instead she finds herself fighting to save the big enclaves as almost every day another one of them is attacked.
The last book was full of a lot of set up for this one and now it is time to see if there is going to be a payoff. The title implies that Ty is going to be front and center since he is the one tasked to go on a typical fantasy RPG collection quest and assemble the four-part key in or to bring a mythical wizard's keep back into existence. Of course he has no idea how to do this, but he knows that he must accomplish it before the White Tower becomes unstoppable. Ty must travel from one land to another through a series of magical portals to find these key pieces, so the constant changes of scenery keep his adventure feeling fresh and unique every step of the way. Unfortunately the same is not true for the other PoV characters. Ferrin remains on the run after his escape from the White Tower and Ayrion still does not have his memories back, so in a way all three of them are dawdling around on side quests while the main storyline goes unpursued. Will that change before this one ends or is this even more set-up for the next book?